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Commercial Kitchen Maintenance Checklist: Keep Your Restaurant Running Smoothly

03.06.23 | Preventive Maintenance

Consistent regular maintenance is key to keeping your restaurant running smoothly.

Benefits include:

  1. Extending the life of your equipment
  2. Maximizing restaurant uptime
  3. Reducing equipment failures and
  4. Minimizing your energy costs

Even basic equipment maintenance and upkeep can save as much as 25% on maintenance costs annually while improving equipment reliability by as much as 50%. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering). 

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive commercial kitchen maintenance checklist that every restaurant operator should know.

The Basic Areas of a Commercial Kitchen

Nearly all restaurant kitchens have the following general areas to manage and ensure each area is up to code during operation.

  • Fire Protection
  • Grease Management
  • HVAC Systems (AC & Heating)
  • Refrigeration (Coolers & Freezers)
  • Cooking Equipment
  • Dispensers
  • Walls, Ceilings & Floors
  • Pest Control
  • Dishwashers
  • POS, Tablets, Printers, Etc.

These areas need to be inspected, cleaned, and/or maintained on a periodic basis for both efficient and compliant operation. 

Most areas, like Fire Protection, need to be inspected and serviced by a licensed professional.

Other areas require general cleaning and maintenance that the restaurant staff can do. 

Let’s take a deeper look into each area.

Fire Protection Maintenance

The restaurant kitchen can be a high-risk area for fires. 

Open flames, grease buildup, and excessive heat pose potential fire hazards.

Therefore, restaurant operators prioritize not only having the proper fire protection system in place but also having it regularly inspected, cleaned, and maintained to minimize the risk of fires.

Ansul System / Fire Suppression System

Ansul System

(Every 6 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Month) : Visually inspected by Staff for potential leaks or physical damage.

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguishers

(Every 12 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Month) : Visually inspected by Staff to see if there is any physical tampering.

Grease Management

Restaurant grease management is the process of cleaning, storing, and properly disposing of grease waste generated when cooking in a restaurant.

Typically, grease accumulates from animal fats, food waste, and cooking oils.

Staying on top of your grease management can prevent dangerous fires and blockages of pipes and drains.

It can also improve the overall sanitation of the restaurant.

Hood Exhaust Cabinet & Duct

Hood Exhaust Cabinet & Duct

(Every 3-4 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Month) : Visually inspected by Staff to for areas of excessive grease build-up, which can pose potential fire hazards.

Hood Filters / Grease Filters

Grease Filters

(Every 3-4 Months) : Professionally Serviced (Ideally, but not required).

(Every Week) : Basic cleaning by staff. Remove filters, wipe off the grease, clean filters with soap and water, dry them, and put them back in place.

Grease Trap

(Every 3-4 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Week) : Visually inspected by staff to check potential overflow and leaks.

Commercial HVAC Maintenance

Proper maintenance of commercial HVAC systems is another top priority of restaurant operators. 

A well-maintained HVAC system leads to better quality air, reduces the risk of fire, and provides a better environment for both customers and employees. 

In addition, a well-maintained HVAC system can lead to significant savings (as much as a 25% reduction in energy expense) when compared to a poorly maintained HVAC system.

Hood Exhaust Blower

Hood Exhaust Blower

(Every 6 Months) : Professionally Serviced (Make sure the belt is replaced every 12 months).

(Every Month) : Basic maintenance by staff: Inspect belt (for excessive wear); fan & bearings for excessive noise (grease if needed).

Swamp Cooler / Make-Up Air Unit (MAU)

Make-Up Air Unit (MAU)

(Every 6 Months) : Professionally Serviced (Make sure the belt is replaced every 12 months).

(Every Month) : Basic cleaning by staff: Remove and hose down cabinet filters with water (no soap or chemicals).

AC Unit / Heating Unit

Heating Unit

(Every 6 Months) : Professionally Serviced before Summer (for cooling); and again before Winter (for heating).

(Every Month) : Basic maintenance by staff: Change the air filters.

Note: When you get professional service for your HVAC system, make sure the professionals check for proper air balance in your kitchen. 

Remember, the hood exhaust system is sucking the air out of the kitchen, while the swamp cooler or make—up air unit is pushing fresh air back in.

This input/output of airflow must be balanced; otherwise, you will get either a slight vacuum or slight pressure inside the kitchen area, which can cause additional wear and energy on the system.

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance

Staying on the plan for all your refrigeration maintenance can lead to significant savings and reduced breakdowns. 

With consistent preventive maintenance performed on all refrigeration units (Walk-ins, Reach-ins, Display Coolers, etc.), restaurant operators can reduce energy consumption by up to 10% annually (Source: U.S. Department of Energy) and extend the life of equipment by up to 20% (Source: Refrigeration Service Engineers Society).

Walk-in Coolers / Walk-in Freezers

Walk-in Coolers - Walk-in Freezers - Coolers

(Every 1-2 Weeks) : Basic maintenance is done by your staff: Clean or vacuum the condenser coils; clean or brush off debris on the evaporator fan; check/calibrate the thermostat; check the door seal for air gaps or leaks (make sure to check all around the door, including the top, bottom and hinge side); check for poor airflow (make sure nothing is blocking the vents).

(Every 12 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

Reach-in Coolers / Reach-in Freezers

Reach-in Coolers _ Reach-in Freezers

(Every 1-2 Weeks) : Basic maintenance is done by your staff: Clean or vacuum the condenser coils; clean or vacuum underneath and behind the unit; check/calibrate the thermostat; check the door seal for air gaps or leaks.

(Every 12 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

Commercial Cooking Equipment Maintenance

Did you know that regular maintenance on your cooking equipment can reduce cooking time by up to 20%? (Source: Food Service Technology Center).

In addition to having more efficient operations and increased productivity, regularly cleaning and maintaining your cooking equipment can help ensure the safety of your staff and customers.

ALL COOKING EQUIPMENT

(Every Day) : Remove or scrape off all food debris; Wipe off grease build-up on cooking surfaces and surrounding area. Only use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solutions.  Avoid harsh chemicals, such as bleach. Sanitize high-touch surfaces (handles, knobs, keypads, etc.). When in doubt, use a clean, dry cloth.  If you use a damp cloth with water, make sure it dries, as you don’t want rust to form.

Visually inspect all around units for potential fire hazards.

(Every 12 Months) : Professionally Inspected (Professionally serviced, as needed).

Deep Fryers

Deep Fryers

(Every 2-4 Weeks) : Boil out your deep fryers regularly: Remove old oil and add a special deep fryer cleaning solution (be sure to follow specific instructions by the equipment manufacturer). Boil the solution to a simmer. If needed, use a soft brush with a long handle to clean and remove food debris that may be stuck in the boiling area—drain solution. Rinse the area with warm water. Dry before filling with fresh cooking oil. Boil-outs will remove grime, and food/debris stuck in various areas of the fryer.

Griddles & Grills

Griddles & Grills

(Every Week) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Use a bench scraper to remove stuck-on food, oil debris, and grease build-up. Systematically scrap clean the entire surface area of the griddle or grill. Wipe off grease around the cooking area, as well.  When done, use a clean cloth or paper towel and “season” your griddle surface with your preferred cooking oil (e.g., avocado oil). It is also a good idea to carefully visually inspect the igniters and burners and remove any debris or grease. Clogged burners can lead to inefficiency causing higher energy usage than is needed.

Ovens & Holding Cabinets

Ovens & Holding Cabinets

(Every Week) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Clean the interior of the oven with a clean cloth, removing all debris. Clean the racks as well. Inspect the oven door. Check both the seal around the door and the function of the door as well. The door should be easy to open and should not feel loose or wobble. Check the control thermostat.  Recalibrate if necessary.

(Every Week) : Inspect the exhaust fan and carefully remove any debris or grease build-up which can affect the efficiency of the fan, in addition to inadequate airflow.

Commercial Beverage Dispensers

Commercial beverage dispensers such as coffee machines, soda fountains, and ice machines need to be cleaned every 1 to 4 weeks, depending on what it is dispensing and how often it is used. 

Commercial coffee machines, if not cleaned, for example, can lead to a build-up of minerals, scale, and other hard water deposits, which can affect the quality and taste of the coffee.

Ice machines are notorious for bacteria building up in the bin and chute if not cleaned on a regular basis.

Here is a basic maintenance checklist for common commercial beverage dispensers.

Ice Machines

Ice Machines

(Every 2-4 Weeks) : Basic cleaning. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Remove all ice.  Scrape off areas where there is ice build-up. Remove the ice bin, wash & sanitize with a mild solution. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry it before placing back. Replace the filters. Clean the condenser fins, removing dust and debris build-up. Clean & sanitize high-touch areas and all around the ice machine.

(Every 4-6 Months) : Deep clean. Professionally serviced.  Your staff can perform this deep clean but should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, as it involves partially taking apart the ice machine and cleaning & sanitizing various components.

Coffee Machines

Coffee Machines

(Every 2-4 Weeks) : Descale the coffee machine. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Descale the coffee machine with the recommended descaling solution from the manufacturer. Start a brew cycle with the descaling solution. Empty the pot when done. Remove the spray head or nozzle and clean thoroughly.  Use a soft brush if needed. Perform at least 1 rinse cycle with warm water to remove the descaling solution residue.

Soda Machines / Soda Fountains

Soda Machines _ Soda Fountains

(Daily) : Basic cleaning. Remove the nozzles and soak them in warm water. Use mild soap if needed. Remove the spill tray and clean it. Allow airing dry. Clean the ice chute as well with soap and water.  After soaking the nozzles, rinse them with water and allow them to air dry.

(Every Month) : Flush the syrup lines. Remove the syrup bibs from the lines. Take the lines and place them in a bucket of cleaning solution. Dispense the solution through the line until it runs clean and clear. Remove the line from the cleaning solution bucket, and place it in a bucket with clean water. Dispense the clean water through the line for several seconds to remove any solution left in the line and the nozzles. Make sure you flush it thoroughly with clean, warm water.  Put everything back together.

Lemonade Dispensers / Refrigerated Drink Dispensers

Lemonade Dispensers _ Refrigerated Drink Dispensers

(Every 2-4 Weeks) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Drain all remaining lemonade and turn off the unit. Use a clean cloth and mild soap to clean both the interior and exterior of the dispenser. Wash the interior or lemonade tank with warm water and a mild solution. Rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water to remove any residual solution. Sanitize the dispenser with food-grade sanitizer. Inspect and clean the gaskets and dispensing nozzles.  Use a soft brush to clean any build-up of dirt. Inspect for areas of mold build-up. Check the temperature of the dispenser to ensure it is working properly, and replace the air filter.

Ice Cream Machines

Ice Cream Machines

(Every Month) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Flush the machine with warm water until the unit dispenses clear water. Rinse the inner chamber again, but this time with hot water (follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance guidelines and temperature needed to clean the ice machine properly). Run a wash cycle with the machine. Drain the machine when done. Pour clean, warm water again through the system to remove any residue. Disassemble.  Again, follow the manufacturer’s specific guidelines to see what parts can be removed. Soak removable parts in hot soapy water for 15 minutes. Make sure they are all submerged in the mild solution. When done soaking, rinse each part thoroughly with clean, warm water, and allow it to dry Clean and sanitize the dispensing handle.  Soak the nozzles or tips where ice cream is dispensed (this part should be removable). Clean and sanitize the catch tray. Reassemble all components carefully. Run a test cycle to ensure it is working properly.  As you take apart and wash, and brush components – keep an eye out for mold build-up.  You may have to use a bleach solution to clean off the mold.

ICEE Machines / Margarita Machine

(Every Month) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Drain all remaining ICEE or specialty drink mixes and turn off the unit. Remove the remaining slushy mix with a damp cloth.  Carefully take apart any removable components, such as the dispensing valve and blender blade. Thoroughly clean each component with warm water.  Clean the holding tank with warm water. Use food-grade sanitizer, and rinse thoroughly with warm water again to remove any sanitizer residue. Clean the dispensing nozzles.  Soak in warm water, and use a soft brush to remove any build-up of debris.  Check for mold and thoroughly clean off with soap and water, if any.  Also, check and clean the evaporator and condenser coils.  Use a vacuum to remove dust and debris if needed. Carefully re-assemble all components and make sure to test the machine to ensure proper function.

Beer Taps & Nozzles

Beer Taps & Nozzles

(Every Month) : Deep clean. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation. Remove the faucet nozzles and soak them in a warm, mildly soapy solution. If needed, use a soft brush to clean each nozzle and unclog any if there is a build-up. Flush the beer lines thoroughly with warm water.  Clean and sanitize the dip tray.  Remove any build-up of debris. Sanitize the nozzles, beer lines, and dip tray.  Rinse them with clean, warm water thoroughly. Re-assemble and test the dispenser to ensure proper function.

Walls, Windows, Ceilings & Floors

Dirty or unsanitary walls and ceilings will get restaurant operators dinged on a routine health inspection

These areas are often overlooked by restaurant operators, particularly ceilings and the walls behind your restaurant equipment. 

Veteran restaurant operators are aware of this and include cleaning walls, ceilings, and underneath & behind equipment as part of their routine maintenance.

Walls, Ceilings & Floors

Walls, Ceilings & Floors

(Every Day or Week) : Floors should be cleaned (swept & mopped) daily, both in front of house and back of the house.  The walls should be cleaned daily as well.  Ceilings do not get dirty as quickly but do accumulate debris, grease, and dirt over time and should be inspected and cleaned on a weekly basis.

Behind & Underneath Equipment

Behind & Underneath Equipment

(Every 2-4Weeks) : Be sure to move equipment and clean the floor underneath and walls behind the equipment.  This area is often neglected but does get inspected by a health inspector on a regular basis. When moving equipment, make sure it is off, and be aware of any electrical, gas, or plumbing lines connected to the unit.

Floor Drains

(Every Week) : All drains in the restaurant should be visually inspected daily and cleaned at least every week to ensure sanitary plumbing conditions.

(Every 12 Months) : Professional service and inspection by a licensed plumber are recommended.

Windows

(Daily) : Clean all windows in the restaurant.  Use Windex or Windex alternatives.  Be sure to sanitize high-touch areas like glass doors.

Pest Control

Pest Control is a must for any restaurant and is required by law.  Monthly pest control inspections and service from a licensed professional are standard in the industry.  Make sure you have your documentation/certificates ready when a health inspector arrives.

Pest Control

(Every Month) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Day) : Keep an eye out for roaches and rodents.  As soon as you see any traces of them, call your Pest Control service agent, and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Commercial Dishwashers

Proper maintenance of your commercial dishwasher can lead to a 20% increase in your machine’s efficiency, leading to energy savings and reduced water waste. (Source: EPA). 

Commercial dishwashers are expensive pieces of equipment that require frequent maintenance all year round.

(Every 3-6 Months) : Professionally Serviced.

(Every Week) : Basic cleaning and inspection.  Check the temperature gauge. Make sure it is functioning properly. Check the water level to ensure the proper function of the pump. Inspect and clean the spray arms, and remove any clogging or blockage. Clean the filters. Check the gaskets and seals for signs of wearing. Replace if necessary. Descale the machine. Descaling removes build-up from minerals. Use the recommended descaling solution.

POS, Tablets, Printers, Etc.

Last, but not least, clean and sanitize your frequently touched hardware, such as your POS (Point-of-Sale) system, tablets and printers.

Last but not least, clean and sanitize your frequently touched hardware, such as your POS (Point-of-Sale) system, tablets, and printers.

Conclusion

Maintaining your commercial kitchen properly and consistently is essential to keeping your commercial kitchen safe, clean, and compliant. 

Nearly 30% of all equipment failures are due to poor maintenance, costing a restaurant an average of $2,000 per incident, which can be completely avoided. (Source: National Restaurant Association).

Proper maintenance can also lead to extending the life of your equipment by as much as 25% in some instances. 

Using helpful tools, such as MaintainIQ, can help operators and staff stay up-to-date on all their kitchen maintenance and cleaning needs while giving staff the information they need to perform the required maintenance properly and who to call for service if there are any issues.

Will Jocson

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